With the regular season in the rearview, excitement is renewed. These are the money weeks. Last week was a good time to be forced to start waiver recommendations such as Drew Lock, Raheem Mostert or Zach Pascal in a pinch. Those players in particular can end up being cornerstones of fantasy championship-winning teams in 2019. These are the players to target for the playoff home stretch based on their advanced stats and metrics profiles.
Ryan Griffin, QB, Buccaneers
The playoff-eliminated Tampa Bay Buccaneers now have a starting quarterback with a fractured hand. Jameis Winston returned to this past week’s game after his initial injury, so it’s unclear as to whether he will continue to play with an injured hand. We should guess that he doesn’t with the team’s postseason hopes having expired.
Ryan Griffin’s profile is not intimidating and does not pose a threat to the starting quarterback spot. His 51.3 (3rd-percentile among qualified quarterbacks) College QBR and 7.0 (10th-percentile) College YPA indicate rough waters ahead for Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard and company. This is an add for fantasy managers who were planning to fill a superflex spot with Winston. In a pinch, gamers may also be able to plug in a Taysom Hill or Tyrod Taylor to cushion the fall from losing Winston.
Ty Montgomery, RB, Jets
By simply not moving, Ty Montgomery’s position in line for running back opportunity has improved with news that Bilal Powell’s foot required an x-ray. Powell was listed as a DNP for Monday’s practice. The Jets’ running back room is now a recovering (illness) Le’Veon Bell, potential satellite back-plus Ty Montgomery, grinder Josh Adams and 185-pound satellite back Trenton Cannon.
Given the reigns, Montgomery is more than capable of delivering the same production Powell offered with more receiving upside. The ceiling is limited by the fact that Bell, with the No. 8 overall Opportunity Share, has still only managed 14.7 (No. 15) Fantasy Points Per Game. Montgomery can be a fantasy RB2 down the stretch in a best-case scenario, but managers may also consider this add a means of keeping the backup away from a Bell owner.
Chris Thompson and Adrian Peterson, RB’s, Washington
The Derrius Guice that came out of LSU is beginning to feel like a mirage. He comes, he flashes and then disappears to injury just as quickly. There is no guesswork to be done. Adrian Peterson slips back into the lead back role with a workload of around 15 carries per game. Chris Thompson is an electric, but truly satellite only player. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins was more than willing to make use of Thompson, targeting him eight times in his second game back from injury. Haskins does not have an abundance of receiving options, and hasn’t been able to take full advantage of Terry McLaurin‘s abilities. A lower average depth of target approach may be what Haskins needs as he acclimates to the NFL game.
Thompson is capable of going on a tear and putting up RB1 numbers for stretches of time. Peterson definitely represents more of a floor play, but can also fall subject to bad game script due to his lack of involvement in pass catching. Both are limited by the team’s quarterback play, until that fateful moment when the quarterback light comes on over Haskins’ head.
John Ross, WR, Bengals
After a stint on the Injured Reserve, John Ross has returned to play. Ross started the season with fantasy points totals of 34.8 (No. 3) and 21.2 (No. 10) over the first two weeks. The carousel of Bengals wide receivers has been productive since that time, but unpredictable. Ross profiles as a higher quality player than Alex Erickson or Auden Tate. Once he is able to assume a full complement of snaps, his position on the target pecking order will rise accordingly.
The Bengals face off against the Patriots in Week 15, and finish their fantasy tour against the Miami Dolphins. A healthy Ross, playing a full complement of snaps, represents home run ability with volume. In those first two weeks, Ross ranked 11th in targets, first in receiving yards and second in fantasy points. He’s the definition of an upside add.
Justin Watson, WR, Buccaneers
Justin Watson has yet to disappoint when given an opportunity. He again delivered with five receptions, 59 yards and a touchdown. Watson’s fate depends on several factors outside of himself. Scott Miller was sidelined with a hamstring injury and Mike Evans also came up lame early in Tampa’s Week 14 contest. If those two continue to be unavailable, Waston is in line for more snaps. He would also benefit, as would the other pass catchers, if Jameis Winston is able to play through his hand injury.
Assuming the stars align, Watson is a candidate for double digit targets after seeing eight in a part-time role on Sunday. Tampa Bay finishes the fantasy season with three favorable matchups against Indianapolis, Detroit and Houston. Watson is an upper echelon athlete and the Tampa Bay offense is in need a playmaker to smooth over the loss of Evans.
Russell Gage, WR, Falcons
When Mohamed Sanu left the Falcons, many expected Calvin Ridley, Julio Jones and Austin Hooper to benefit. Instead, we have seen Russell Gage slot in as an 80-percent Sanu type of player. Ridley left Sunday’s game with abdominal pain, and will miss the remainder of the season.
Check out Russell Gage on PlayerProfiler’s Updated Weekly Rankings and Projections:
Since Week 8, Gage has seen target totals of nine, five, four, 10, nine and four targets. He is not the type of talent that will break games open given a sliver of opportunity, like an A.J. Brown. Given volume though, Gage is capable of delivering 15 PPR fantasy point-performances that even playoff lineups need.
O.J. Howard, TE, Buccaneers
O.J. Howard remains the tight end talent he was before the 2019 season kicked off. At the same time, scheme and coaching changes have given fantasy gamers what amounts to a lost season. Lately though we’ve seen signs of life, and with Mike Evans expected to miss the rest of the season, the team may need Howard more than they have to this point. Howard has certainly disappointed, but is still delivering 12.8 (No. 4) Yards Per Reception, which goes along with the fact that he’s also top ten in Deep Targets. The accuracy of those targets has been better than one might expect with a 7.94 (No. 11) Target Accuracy rating.
So Jameis Winston is not only giving Howard catchable balls, he’s targeting him down the field. If the decision is made to deploy Howard in more routes going forward, he will be able to draw targets and produce with volume. The Tampa Bay offense does not have a running game that they can fall back on. They are much more likely to continue slinging the ball at a top-five rate in the NFL. Howard is a quality player who can capitalize when opportunity comes his way.
Ian Thomas, TE, Panthers
Ten targets in the world of tight ends is noteworthy. It would paint a prettier picture if feeding Ian Thomas had resulted in a win for the Panthers. It doesn’t change the fact that his single game eclipses any of Greg Olsen’s games this season in terms of sheer volume and opportunity.
Olsen is likely to make his way out of concussion protocol, but much is uncertain in Carolina. Kyle Allen has struggled lately. Ron Rivera is out of the picture. It is time for Thomas to step forward and show that he is capable of contributing to the new identity of the Carolina Panthers. In dynasty leagues, Thomas is exactly the kind of tight end prospect that fantasy gamers can buy low on, or even just add. He was on the radar as a quality prospect leaving college. Olsen’s return to the Panthers’ lineup has postponed the party, but it is no less inevitable.